Meatwatch: Bolognese

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Look, we know what you’re thinking: This is by far one of our worst pun-based ideas. But we started doing it a few years ago when GW started putting out their Metawatch articles and now we’re just kind of perpetually stuck doing the bit. And so we present: Bolognese.

Having a kid is a fuckin rollercoaster, man. You go through a phase where for like 2.5 years you are desperately trying to stop them from putting everything they can touch into their mouths (I have personally forcibly removed more than one rock from my child’s mouth), and then one day they suddenly start having extremely strong feelings about what they will and won’t eat. And let me tell you, Dear Reader – there is no logic or reason behind these decisions. You will sit there, like an asshole, while a four-year old American child tells you with a straight face that they do not like Mac N’ Cheese any more. You know they’re lying, they know you know, but you cannot spend an entire meal forcing spoonfuls of Mac n’ Cheese down their throats.

I’m told that you have to be really careful about what you let kids eat early on so they don’t get a taste for eating lots of sweet foods and continue to eat things like broccoli and peas. I’ve also been told that it doesn’t matter and kids just kind of figure out whatever they want to eat at some point and there’s not much you can do about it. Either way, once they start getting picky is when the second meal prep cycle starts – basically from this point onward, you will often find yourself cooking a second, smaller meal for your kid so they can eat at the same time you do. And let me tell you, Dear Reader, there are a lot of Dinosaur Chicken Nuggets in that particular menu. Few things beat a meal you can reliably cook in an oven in about 15 minutes while you prep other food.

There are few things as a parent that are better than being able to cook a single meal for your family, sit down, and everyone just eats it. No squirming, no bargaining or begging for them to just fuckin try one bite, please, no shouting. Just a regular meal where everyone eats the food on their plate. And it’s twice as good when you introduce some new food option that your kid just picks up and eats for the first time, no questions asked.

Pasta is one of the few things my son will eat with pretty much no fuss. And so pasta sauce has become a reliable way of me feeding him vegetables he’d otherwise never eat, like celery, brussel sprouts, and spinach. I’ve long maintained that Bolognese is the best of the pasta sauces, and offers a ton of interesting and fun ways to vary the recipe. As a result, making Bolognese from scratch has become a regular occurrence in our household, frequently delivering the kinds of meals that we all sit down to eat.

Now that I’ve given an appropriately long intro to this, it’s time to drop a recipe. I’m giving loose measurements here because being super accurate generally doesn’t matter when you are doing real cooking, i.e. not baking. Just remember to taste it as you go.

Also this recipe takes quite a bit of time to cook – usually around an hour and a half to two hours. It’s worth it, but you need some time.

The Ingredients

  • 3-4 strips of thick cut bacon (use pancetta if you’re fancy)
  • 1 lb. Ground pork (beef or turkey or venison will do)
  • 4 Italian sausages (spicy also works)
  • Half an onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup cooking/white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Italian seasoning
  • One tube of tomato paste
  • Fennel
  • Your favorite pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons of butter

Once you’ve got all your vegetables diced, it’s time to start cooking. Cut the bacon into little strips and then drop in a big pot on medium heat to start cooking it. Once it browns a bit, drop the onions in and cook them for a bit at medium-high. Then add the pork with some salt and pepper and the sausage – and be sure to take the sausages out of the casings. That part is equal parts fun and gross because you get to squeeze the meat out like big poops.

Bacon and onions, hell yeah

While the meat cooks, it’s a good time to add fennel, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Once that’s browned it’s time to add the milk and wine. We’re going to add both and stir, then crank the heat up to high. The goal is to let this all cook down over the next 20 minutes or so, until only the flavor is left. Then it’s time to add the celery and carrots. Note that if you don’t want to do celery here, other vegetables will work just fine – I’ve used chopped brussels sprouts before and bok choy and they all work great.

Once those have cooked a bit and softened, it’s time to add in the tomato paste. Add in about 3/4 of a tube (or you can use a small can), then mix that in and cook it for a bit before adding in two cups of water. Here’s where I added a handful of chopped up baby spinach leaves and a healthy pouring of Italian seasoning. Once again we’re going to cook the sauce down until there’s very little water left.

Cooking down the tomato sauce

While this is happening, or a little bit after, you want to cook the pasta. In this particular case I did cheese tortellini because that goes over well with the boy but my personal favorite is to do penne. Once the pasta’s done, keep a cup of the pasta water and then take about half the sauce and put it aside. That’s for keeping later – there’s way too much sauce here for one family meal’s worth, but that’s part of the plan. You can freeze this excess sauce and then in a few weeks, take it out, heat it up, and add some water and throw it on some pasta.

Excess sauce for freezing. It should be thicker in this state – you’re going to add a little water when you reheat it.

The rest of the sauce becomes tonight’s sauce. Take your pasta and put it in the pot with the remaining sauce, add the pasta water and a couple tablespoons of butter. Stir it and cook it on medium-ish heat until the butter’s melted and then spoon that out and cover it with parmesan cheese.

The completed meal, housed in like 10 seconds


I generally like cooking; it’s one of the most useful skills I learned – being able to put a bunch of things from my fridge into a pot and turn it into an edible meal is always useful. But I also don’t like cooking enough or have the time to do it every day; I’m good for maybe four meals per week most of the time. Making pasta sauce like this is pretty fulfilling and will generally make 2-3 meals’ worth of sauce, making it a great way to cut down on the number of times I cook.

Anyways, the boy ate it, including the carrots, spinach, and celery.

He doesn’t even know he’s eating vegetables… sucker

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